The Girl with Seven Names
An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal totalitarian regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.

She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities – involving imprisonment, torture, and possible public execution. Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea, on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.

This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo’s escape from the darkness into the light, but also of her coming of age, education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life – not once, but twice – first in China, then in South Korea. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.

The Girl with Seven Names Details

Book TitleThe Girl with Seven Names
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The Girl with Seven Names Reviews

  • Elle Fae
    Oct 9, 2016

    Elle Fae

    This was definitely the best autobiography I've read to date. Hyeonseo is a brave exceptional woman who has been through hell and back. The loyalty and love she has for her family was so lovely to read. I can't even form a proper review- no review will describe how much I loved reading...

  • Nancy
    Aug 9, 2016


    4.5 stars. One of the better books I've read on North Korean defection. Kudos to the co-author who brilliantly translated Lee's emotional journey into a page-turner. The third part was my favorite because it involved her family's long and arduous journey to join her in South Korea. I w...

  • Jeraviz
    Jul 18, 2016


    Para alguien que no sepa lo que ha ocurrido en el planeta Tierra en el último siglo, leyendo este libro tal vez piense que es de ciencia ficción. Una sociedad al estilo de 1984 de Orwell, donde la gente piensa que su líder es un semi-dios, o es ejecutada por pensar diferente.L...

  • Victoria Mars
    Apr 23, 2016

    Victoria Mars

    Si yo hubiera sido Hyeonseo, ya estaría muerta. Increíble su historia de superación. Nada más que escribir aquí. ...

  • Hyeonseo Lee
    Apr 10, 2016

    Hyeonseo Lee

    Thanks to everyone who voted in the 2015 #GoodreadsChoice Awards. Of course, I was hoping to win, but I'm still honored that I came in 4th place out of many good books. Wow!!! I never thought my memoir would make it to the FINAL round of the 2015 #GoodreadsChoice Award. Only ten books ...

  • Cassandra
    Mar 18, 2016


    The story of Hyeonseo and her family's escape from North Korea is fascinating and moving. The style itself is very matter-of-fact, and the writing isn't emotional. It doesn't have to be. The stories she tells are powerful enough on its own. Just when you think that Hyeonseo catches a b...

  • Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
    Mar 9, 2016

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    It’s been awhile since I have been this riveted by a book. And this isn’t even a novel, but a memoir! But then, a jaded reader like me can often sense where the plot of a novel will go, but in real life, anything can happen.Hyeonseo Lee was born in North Korea, and the first ...

  • Camie
    Mar 8, 2016


    If you're like me and haven't read much about past and present living conditions in Northern Korea , you'll learn a lot here.This simply written book follows the courageous journey of a 17 year old girl who will need to change her name seven times after she defects from North Korea and...

  • Winter Sophia Rose
    Mar 6, 2016

    Winter Sophia Rose

    Intriguing, Unique, Emotionally Engaging, Fascinating Page Turner! An Excellent Read! I Loved It! ...

  • Denise
    Mar 2, 2016


    The Girl with Seven Names is a powerful, fascinating true story about a young girl who manages to escape from North Korea. She gives a very honest view of living in North Korea and her escape and later helping her mother and brother escape. I found myself feeling all the pain, the stru...